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Anchorage Police Department Celebrates 100 Years of Service in 2021

by | Jan 14, 2021 | Government, News

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Hello 2021! Do you know what this year is? It’s our big birthday year! That’s right—your Anchorage Police Department has officially turned 100 years old and we believe that’s something to celebrate. So much has changed in the last century. Here’s a peak at our history and what got us to where we are today:

Anchorage had a modest beginning as a tent city on the banks of Ship Creek which was originally called Ship Creek Landing. Law enforcement for the Alaska Territory had been in the hands of the United States Marshals.

On November 23, 1920, Anchorage was incorporated as a first-class city. Alaska did not become the 49th state of America until January 3, 1959.

Due to an appointment by the city council, John J. Sturgus began as Chief of Police on January 1, 1921, at a salary of $200 a month ($2,900 in today’s dollars).

He was a one-man police department until his death just six weeks later. He was shot and killed with his own gun on February 20th. The city council voted to offer a $1,000 reward for the suspect’s capture. The mayor pledged an additional $250, and all other council members and clerks pledged $100 each, bringing the total reward to $1,950 (equivalent to over $28,300 today). No arrests were ever made.

Many men served as chief during Anchorage’s violent territorial years.

In 1926, the council began hiring night watchmen during the long winter months of October through March. Their duties included doing security checks on businesses and stoking the fires that heated the stores during the winter months.

On June 19, 1935, the council received a petition signed by seven property owners to provide a 24-hour police force. The Department operated on foot while occasionally borrowing a citizen’s car and using taxis until the city decided to purchase a vehicle.

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In August 1930, APD became the proud owner of a used Ford bought for $63.75. Eleven years later the council voted to purchase the Department’s first brand new police car, a 1941 Dodge 4-door sedan equipped with both a siren and a spotlight, for $1,401.80.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the military began building bases, which caused the population of Anchorage to jump from 4,229 in 1939 to 30,060 in 1950.

In mid-1946 the police department hired its first female officer, at the time officially titled “policewoman.” Her name was Sally Miller, and she was a former registered nurse. Her duties included handling cases involving women and children, providing first aid and nursing services in emergencies, working the desk at headquarters, and buying and serving three meals a day to prisoners.

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Fast forward to today: many women serve our community at APD in a wide range of roles such as police officers, dispatchers, evidence technicians, community relations staff, records clerks, detectives, crime scene team members, commanders, and more.

Today APD honorably and proudly serves a population of more than 285,000 in a service area that covers the Knik River bridge on the north end to Ingram Creek on the south side. APD currently employs just under 600 people made up of both sworn and non-sworn positions.

Sworn members have the opportunity to work in specialized units including K9, Special Weapons and Tactics, Crime Scene Team, Bomb Squad, School Resource Officer, Crisis Intervention Team, Special Assignment Unit, Community Action Policing, Impaired Driving Enforcement Unit, and the Major Collision Investigative Unit.

Many of these units include non-sworn support staff. Several other opportunities exist within APD for non-sworn employment to Include records, evidence, dispatch, fiscal, information technology, community relations, and the crime lab.

Come join us! We’re always looking to hire people who love this community and want to make it even better. If you’re interested in either a sworn or non-sworn career, please visit joinapd.org. We are looking forward to serving all of you for the next 100 years in this great state!

(Oh, and as an aside, the cars we have now are WAY COOLER than that used Ford we started out with. The lights and sirens are better, too. And we don’t use typewriters anymore, either.)

Alaska Business Magazine May 2021 Cover

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